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Chile lifts curfew as troops struggle to stop looting

Chile today relaxed its night time curfew as thousands of troops tried to prevent more looting and crime after the devastating earthquake. In the badly damaged city of Concepción, looters burnt stores and people complained security was getting worse and the delivery of food and other basic supplies had been slow.  Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says 14,000 troops are now in the area, after 55 people were arrested on Sunday night for breaking the curfew as looters raided almost every market in the city Yesterday, another 105 people were arrested for looting and other crimes, and one person was shot dead during the night. “Shots were fired. Police took control of the area,” said the Deputy Interior Minister, Patricio Rosende.

Many of the city's 500,000 people are short of food and have seen their water and electricity supplies cut off since Saturday morning’s 8.8-magnitude quake that killed at least 723 people.  The situation was worse than expected said President-elect Sebastian Pinera after visiting the quake zone. "When we have a catastrophe of this magnitude, when there is no electricity and no water, the population... starts losing the sense of public order," he said. The army has been holding up lorries laden with water, food and mattresses because of the curfew, reported a BBC correspondent. “I feel abandoned by the authorities,” said Eduardo Aundez, a Spanish professor. “We believe the Government didn’t take the necessary measures in time, and now supplies of food and water are going to be much more complicated, ” he told The Times newspaper.

Damian Vera Vergara, 68, said: “We have not got any help from the government. We were expecting more and are still waiting for the three basics — food, water and electricity." Last night, the aid effort suffered another blow when a small aircraft carrying a rescue team to Concepción crashed, killing all six people on board. But other international aid has started arriving. Neighbouring Argentina is flying a field hospital over the Andes to Chile and has promised to ship over half a million litres of drinking water.

Several strong aftershocks, some as powerful as magnitude 6.9, have driven thousands to flee their homes, setting up tents and makeshift shelters. About two million Chileans are believed to have been affected by Saturday's earthquake, the seventh most powerful on record and the worst disaster to hit Chile in 50 years. About 1.5 million homes have been damaged. 

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children